AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — Black History Month may be over, but thanks to the Center for African American History, Art, and Culture; you can learn about Black history all year round.
The Center for African American History, Art, and Culture is in Downtown Aiken, South Carolina. It’s not only an educational resource; it also provides several services for the community.
They’re open five days a week for tours and they cover African American History within Aiken and Aiken County.
“The only way that we can guarantee that our history and culture and traditions are passed down is through educating all of the generations that are coming up now, that are coming after us; and so, we do that through sights and sounds and pictures and education,” said Juanita Campbell, the Executive for the Center for African American History, Art, and Culture.
The center is filled with different items donated by the community. Since the doors opened back in March, the support has been tremendous.
“We’ve seen an increase in tourism, an increase in community people wanting to actually use the facility, especially individuals, and corporations as well as other educational institutions,” said Campbell.
While the center houses historical items, there’s plenty of history behind the building itself.
“In 1881 the Emmanuel Institute was actually founded on Newberry Street in Aiken, South Carolina in a six-bedroom house. It was a school for African American children and when the enrollment got too large, they decided that they needed a new facility. So, in 1889 they began construction of the actual center, which was the Emmanuel Institute and then became the Center and the actual building was built by the hands of African Americans for their children to get an education,” said Campbell.
Touring the center takes you on a journey.
“We’re actually in the main galley of the center which was one of the classrooms when it was a school in the late 1800s. The importance of some of these pieces would be the reflection. If you look into their eyes, you can tell that they’ve seen a lot in their lives and being an African American, the struggles still exist today.”
“We’re actually in the replica of a slave ship and this actually would have been the slave decks and the whole point in this is to give people the experience that we were not alive to have. It is also a reminder that this is what our ancestors went through in order for us to have the freedoms that we have today.”
There’s plenty more to see in the Center for African American History, Art, and Culture, and it’s still growing. The staff and community are excited to have a place where Black history can live forever.
“I feel very proud that Aiken has this kind of place, this kind of location, and this resource in the community and the reason is because it’s a form of preservation. It means that they find the history, the African American history of this area just as important as any other history.”